Boiler, Furnace & Water Heater Spotlight | Upstate New York Energy
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How to Choose A New Hot Water Heater

Today's busy lifestyle is fueling the need for high-volume hot water on demand. Unfortunately, most people don't even think about the strains they're putting on their hot water heater until it just stops working altogether. That's why it's a good idea to know your options beforehand and to learn the facts before you're forced to choose one on the spot. Remember the three cardinal rules of shopping for a standard storage water heater: Don't rush. Size matters. Energy efficiency matters more.

  • Size: Your household needs a properly sized water heater to maximize efficiency and to provide enough hot water at the busiest time of the day. Determine how much water your household uses during the busiest hour of an average day. This sum, your household's "peak-hour demand" should be close to your water heater's "first-hour rating" (FHR), printed on each heater's yellow Energy Guide label. The FHR tells you how many gallons of hot water a heater can produce during an hour of high usage. Also, make sure the heater will fit in the available space and still leave enough room for servicing.
  • Energy Efficiency: The next number to look at is the energy factor (EF), a number that represents the percentage of energy that is turned into hot water (An EF of 1=100%). While a high EF is good, it’s important to consult a professional to get a full picture of the potential energy savings each new water heater can provide.
  • Costs: Even though water heaters with high EFs cost more to buy, don't overlook the potential long-term savings. Here's an easy formula to calculate the payback period when comparing heaters that have the same FHR rating but different prices. Divide the difference between the prices of the two models by the difference between their estimated annual operating costs (printed on the Energy Guide labels). The result is the number of years it will take the energy savings to offset the higher purchase price. If energy prices go up during that time, the payback period will be shorter.

For the best advice when looking for a new water heater, ask your local UNYEA member to evaluate your family's needs and your existing heater. Our members will service and stand behind every piece of equipment they install, so you can truly rely on them and their recommendation!

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